Memphis, Tenn. • A bloodied, bruised, taped, iced and wrapped Joe Ingles had a message for Jazz general manager Dennis Lindsey as he strolled through the Jazz’s locker room in Memphis:
“I’m not coming back here.”
Ingles was joking, as he always is, but the joke did have an element of truth to it: the Jazz will be very glad that they don’t have to see the Memphis Grizzlies again for another four months.
That’s despite a 96-88 win that reversed the course of recent Grizzlies-Jazz history in exactly one way: The Jazz won this one, after losing the first two in Vivint Arena. Ingles was the perfect avatar of this night: Yes, he finished the game with a team-high 19 points, leading the Jazz in scoring for the second-straight game.
But in the course of doing so, his body took the punishment. On a defensive drive, MarShon Brooks hit Ingles’ taped finger, which was still recovering from separating it last week. And then with 3:36 left in the fourth quarter, Brooks’ arm followed through, hitting Ingles directly above the eye. Blood gushed down Ingles’ face, and the game was stopped.
The cut required two timeouts (one official, one Jazz) to stop the bleeding, and Ingles re-entered the game with a bandage wrapping around his head that would have fit an Australian-rules football player more than this Australian basketball player. And then Ingles sealed the win, finding Rudy Gobert on an alley-oop, then hitting a dagger three with under a minute left.
One more unfortunate mishap would befall Ingles before time ended. As Marc Gasol looked to intercept a pass, he leaped in the air and landed on Ingles, causing an exasperated Ingles to shout — again, jokingly — at Quin Snyder to take him out of the game. He didn’t.
“To be honest, I’m happy that he [came back], but that’s our expectation,” Snyder said. “We have to be a tough team, and that’s the norm. I’m proud of him, happy for him, and happy for us.”
Ingles’ cut required at least four stitches, the first time he’s received stitches in his 31-year life.
But while the night’s memes and jokes all belonged to Ingles, he had significant help in getting the win. After a scoreless and shotless first half, Gobert turned things around with a 15-point second half, adding 16 rebounds to boot. Gobert’s effort on putbacks and ability to get position down low for the first time in the three matchups gave the Jazz an offensive weapon they desperately needed.
“That’s the problem with looking at Rudy’s game by whether or not he scores. They were packing it in, and he kept rolling and kept playing, and he was rewarded with baskets in the second half,” Snyder said. “He did his job.”
Dante Exum also played a big role. After playing fewer than three minutes against Boston last Friday night, Snyder turned to Exum in his regular spot in the rotation and then some, after Ricky Rubio found himself in foul trouble. Exum changed the game with his ball pressure, and ended up with nine points after getting loose in transition a couple of times.
“[Snyder] just challenged me, he knows what type of defensive player I am and how I can contribute to the team,” Exum said. “That’s what I tried to do on every possession. I was tired as hell, but I tried to fight through it.”
Exum spent much of his time guarding Mike Conley, who again led a two-man game with Memphis’ Marc Gasol for the 11th season. Conley finished with a game-high 24 points, but shot just 2-8 in the fourth quarter. Memphis was struggling with limited depth due to injury: head coach J.B. Bickerstaff played just eight men, as Dillon Brooks, Omri Casspi, Chandler Parsons, and JaMychal Green all out. It was their first loss at home of the season.
But while Memphis’ depth is being tested, so is Utah’s resilience after playing the Grizzlies for 23 percent of their games so far this season in yet another grinding, physical affair. Besides the new cut above his head, Ingles seems to have picked up a new nickname.
“That’s headband Joe,” Donovan Mitchell said. “He’s a trooper, he’s a fighter. That’s why I respect him, he fights through everything and doesn’t miss a game. Literally.”
After 234 consecutive games on the NBA court, Ingles officially earned his stripes — just in bandage form.